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Thursday November 17 2005

As I grow ever more concerned about the amount of stuff I shall never get to hear, read or watch,

I grow ever more thankful for resources such as Bending Corners. The premise is very simple. Every month or so they put out a podcast lasting an hour and change, which will be loosely themed and can be guaranteed to contain a lot of jazz grooves. Nothing but, in fact. What really sells this to me, apart from the excellent tunes of course, is that unless I trouble to look at the playlist on the site and cross-reference it to the cast while I listen, I don't really know what it is that I'm listening to. I find that this is a massive advantage, since I listen without undue preconception as a result. This is like a free version of my "buying CDs on the five for thirty quid deals because I like the covers or the name resonates somewhere within my head" tactic. It works very well for me.

The principle is this: If I am left to choose my listening on the basis that I know the artist, or have other work by them, then there is not going to be a great deal of diversity in the stuff that crosses my brain. What I want is to listen to music, and what I don't especially want is to listen to artists. By which I mean that I don't want all the background information that I've accumulated to contribute to my having preconceived notions about what I hear before I have even heard it. I do not mean that I am completely averse to getting music because I know it and want a copy, or that I disparage reading sleeve notes or doing a bit of careful research in advance. Not at all. I simply like a high degree of randomness in my listening, because I think it's healthy. Of course I know that I will get jazz from Bending Corners, and I know that I like jazz. So it's all only a random process to that point. But I do find this method really helps me to listen to music for its own sake. I'm the same with my relatively recent habit of taking in as much art as I can. I know next to nothing about any artists, so I just react to the visual stimuli in a virtual vacuum.

It all does wonders for my playing, provided that I'm playing with other people who have a sense of adventure. I suppose that's the next thing to work on.

I must now return to the business of resuscitating my old gold bass for tonight's (prosaic) gig. I've found old credit cards very helpful as a substitute for the unobtainable nylon washers that always fail on my tuning machines. There you go - incapable of talking about anything without introducing an element of how machinery gets in the way. Perhaps I'll do it by candlelight. Fix the bass, I mean.


Posted at 12:42 am by Jim Woods

Wednesday November 16 2005

Having experimented since just after last Christmas with all sorts of ways of organizing my papers,

diary, addresses and suchlike I have now reached some conclusions. I suppose started this long field experiment for two reasons. Firstly, I came across the web site 43 Folders, where all sorts of methods of self-organization and productivity are explored. I explored them. I bought a selection of Moleskine notebooks. I need no encouragement to do this sort of thing, since I am a stationery fetishist at the best of times and have an Aspergic love of list-making. I listed and wrote and wrote and listed, and I thought for a while that an item listed was an item done. I actually did very little, apart from go and see a hell of a lot of art, which enabled me to cross one thing off the lists at least. I carried all this paperwork, consisting of a wallet and a Filofax and a couple of Moleskines and a little plastic pocket filing thing (beast) about in a bag with a selection of pens. I felt very well equipped to organize myself. I had all the information with me at all times, and I knew what I should be doing.

I was very personally productive at having the means to be personally productive. Still am. It's not quite the same as being productive though. In fact, it rather got in the way. I think my lists were rather general, along the lines of "be rich, thin, handsome and successful". I should have broken them down into simpler, more attainable steps. But then I'd have been so busy refining these lists that I'd have never had time for anything else. Like sitting about using the internet, which I strongly recommend as a waste of time and prime giver of the illusion of progress. Therefore I began to refine the amount of this clobber down with the aim of returning to a simpler way of organizing myself, a Holy Grail if you like, where I pretty much drifted about and did only what I had to. The rest of the time's called leisure, and I'm not sure that organizing it was a very healthy thing to do. For you it may be, but for me everything began to seem like a job. I did, however, get some utility from my project. Here's how I find it best to organize my doings:

I carry the Filofax, which I use as a diary and as a repository for notelets if I need a list. Shopping, say. Filofax Mini has attached pen, but is too small for wads of other stuff.


Everything else goes in the wallet, except when it's a book or record or film I need to check out. They go in a small Moleskine which also gets any ideas I have.

Phone numbers go in the mobile, of course, and also in a spreadsheet kept on my PC as a hedge against losing the phone. It happens.

This is largely how I did things before, but now when I go to the record or book shop I have with me the list of what I'm after. And carrying my diary stops me having to remember to put things in it when I get home. Therefore I'd call my investigations in the area of getting things done partially successful. And I have a lot more unused stationery at home to gloat over.

And I realize I'd like a P.A. But I can't afford one because I don't do the things I used to list in order to make more dosh. But nobody's perfect.


Posted at 5:14 am by Jim Woods

Monday November 14 2005

Extra bonus machinery rage outburst!

Read all about it! Oh yes, it's war on the machines now. I have only very occasional need of a printer. After all, isn't the whole point of IT to get away from cutting down trees left right and rain forest? At least partly, you'll agree. But sometimes stuff needs to be on paper. I don't want to prop my elderly laptop on the car bonnet in the rain while I refer to "set up your Weber, you mal-jetted bastard - the guide". I want to print out the destructions. So I did. I had to dig out my old Epson colour inkjet in order to do so. At least it has a separate cartridge for black, so you don't have to continually buy the colour refills if you're just printing text out here and there and consequently hammering the black alone. I've only just blagged a new black refill. I knew the colour was on the way out, but elected not to give a proverbial. I mean, you've all seen the quality I get from my digital camera on Flickr by now, right? Hardly worth a hard copy. Nope, I've got a new black 'un in the breech, and it'll do me for years of the odd printout.

That's what, in my naïveté, I thought.

Now I think we're all well aware by now that you can get a colour inkjet printer for the price of a curry and a few beers - less, in fact, if your curry and a few beers are on a lavish scale such as mine tend to be. The catch, of course is the same old same old that we remember from the Polaroid camera days. The hardware is cheap, but the consumables are rather less so. And the cartridges supplied are special needn't-think-you'll-get-a-deal-from-us mean little half full ones more often than not. In fact these days there is high-tech chipping to ensure a total lack of competition in that arena too. Bastards. My Epson predates that, thankfully. I don't know what genuine cartridges cost, as they're not what comes up when I do a quick and testy Google to see the damage. A tenner perhaps. All well and good, you'd think. A tenner's black cartridge will suffice for my humble printing for ages. Don't need the colour.

They make my printer throw an error-fit because the colour cartridge has bought the farm. Even though I have a brand new black cartridge, genuine Epson even as it happens, I cannot print. An error condition exists, and I'm well aware that having no colour inks is a legitimate error. What is totally illegitimate is that I face having to buy a ten quid colour refill simply in order to get the printer to shut up and get on with not ever using it. Incredible. Quel rip extraordinaire.

Disappointing, defective, badly designed and just plain thick machines encountered this year: 365,892. Feels like. Actually, I must be fair. The real figure is closer to however many I've bought and used, minus one. It's so far so good with my cheapish Citizen Eco-Drive watch from Argos. Hats off to Citizen.

Piss off, the rest of you manufacturers.

Lovely sunny day today. Managed to lacerate myself on some aluminium ducting I was cutting up to replace air-cleanery bits. Didn't mind a bit. It cost two quid and largely sorted the car. Bit of a clean out too, and it'll be watch out tarmac.


Posted at 11:21 pm by Jim Woods

The end of a week, in which Tiggers slept very little and accomplished - well, you can guess.

In my on going neo-pseudo-Luddite crusade to fix my machinery or replace it with stuff that actually works there were some small victories. I worked out a way to modify the bad design of my otherwise nice Ibanez Roadgear bass by rebuilding the bridge; I need sharper HSS drill bits to do it though. They don't seem to last the course very well these days. I played around with the carb on the Scirocco a load more, but it still sputters at low speed and on the overrun; essentially it runs marvellously under acceleration and at high speeds. The gonzo in me would like to say that in a semi-sporting car this is no problem, but sometimes I just want to, y'know, potter down to Tesco. I don't shout about it, but there you have it. I need to rebuild the bastard carb I think. No real money involved, but more time. I do wish it weren't dark and/or raining every time I get the opportunity to do anything about it.

I intend to chastise Cycle King roundly for the failure of the twist grip shifter on the newer of my two bicycles. The bastards were supposed to have fixed it before. Yet again I wish I'd stuck with my previous solution, to whit the Sturmey Archerous green bike. As it is I use the green bike because it works. The newer piss-green bike does not.

I got some good results at recording though, on Thursday, and have had a fair few laughs. Yesterday - oh, looking at the clock the day before in fact - I made an outing to see some friends on the edge of the Forest of Dean. Their house has amazing twenty-mile or more views across the Severn estuary, and is full of Mark's art. Cool house, cool people, cool cats even. I took a look around the forge in an industrial unit where my friend does his metal sculpting, and thought wistfully of how trivial it would be to sort out my car amongst other things if I had a large lit sheltered workshop to simply roll it into. A lot of the problems I face with maintaining the machinery in my life are caused by having to do so in the garden, the tiny house or by the roadside. Lack of light and security doth not half f*ck it up when you try to get things done.

Anyway, I had a great day out and tiny change of seen, and I have now taken stock of the contents of various neglected cupboards in the process of finding the charger for my miracle Argos cordless tenner drill. I have solved a mystery with Tesco mobile reception, which turned out to be crap phone rather than crap network; don't bother with Siemens phones even at fifteen quid. Car is otherwise very nice, needing only minor fiddling (touch wood). Bike is the problem of Cycle King, under terms of warranty. Bass is OK and I have inside track on another great one under a complex deal even I can afford. Sky is being cancelled because almost everything good is on free channels, I have established, so there's a bit of loot saved and a bit less complexity to my life. Christmas is a-coming in six weeks and the goose and I are getting fat. I seem to have about four types of weed-killer in stock and none is effective and I don't believe in it anyway. I have a handful of gigs which will be fun. It's all fine really.

And I realize that this blog does not especially represent my life, which is actually only partly spent pissing about with recalcitrant machinery and much more involved with arty things. I suppose I just use the blog to let off steam. This, however, may be more entertaining to the reader than my musings on the arts. Or maybe not. I'm always open to suggestions.

Got a great wool jacket in Matalan. I love Matalan when I get cheap, good clothes there that don't in any way look as though they come from Matalan.


Posted at 12:35 am by Jim Woods

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